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March 16, 2016

Bill Self

Des Moines, Iowa

THE MODERATOR: We would like to welcome Kansas Coach, Bill Self, to Des Moines. Opening statement, Coach?

BILL SELF: We're happy to be in Des Moines and really excited about participating in the NCAA Tournament again. Hopefully it will be a special experience for all our players.

Q. Coach, you guys are on a 14-game winning stream, it started against Kentucky at Allen Fieldhouse. When you look back on that night what do you feel your team has learned that enabled you to go on the run you have over the last month after?
BILL SELF: I don't know that we learned anything new. Maybe we did. I know it was a really well played ball game, there were two good deamidize playing that night and we knew Kentucky was playing good. But I think they played at a high level that night, and I think it probably did give us confidence knowing that we could play against, you know, one of the nation's best on a night when they were pretty good and still, you know, have a victory.

But, you know, playing at home you should win, the vast majority of the games. If anything, it probably gave us confidence that we got one under our belt going into the rest of the Big 12 play.

Q. Do you like the so-called pressure of being No. 1 overall seed? Are there ways that you work with that psychologically with your team or is this all a media creation of the pressure?
BILL SELF: I guess you could feel pressure. We have been the No. 1 overall before and haven't performed great the time that we were. I think that was in '10, if I'm not mistaken.

I don't feel any extra pressure whether you're a -- what's the difference between a 1 overall and a 1, I have no idea. I don't know what the difference is, than in the twos. After you get seeded and placed on your line, it's about preparing for match-ups and the team that's in front of you.

Our guys have been really, really loose for the last six or eight weeks. They've really played at a -- I don't want to say at a high level, but at a level in which they were playing with freedom or they at least felt that. And I can't see that changing. We're not going to put any emphasis on it by talking about it, but I want our guys to be the way they have been.

Q. Bill, along the lines of the 1-16 thing, do you find yourself surprised that that upset has never happened with all the things that have happened in the tournament? Obviously you don't aim to let yourself to be the first, but the tournament being known for all these crazy things that's still out there to be had and why not if you think it through?
BILL SELF: I think it will happen, you know, just hopefully not in 2016. But I do think that it's coming. Also, there's been, you know, more than one close call with the 1-16 that was just a possession away from going the other way. I really don't look at it like that, that there is extra pressure or this is going to happen eventually, I don't look at it. Once the brackets came out all I really do and all our team really has done is just focus in on who the next game would be. So we're not looking at it as 1 versus 16. We're looking at it as, hey, we get an opportunity to play Austin Peay.

Q. Coach, Wayne has played some of his best games against your best opponents, but it hasn't necessarily translated to the NCAA Tournament. Is that a small sample size thing? How confident are you that he can turn it around?
BILL SELF: I think he can turn it around. It probably is a small sample size because in his particular career we're only talking about four games. So I hope it is a small sample size and you're right, the stats don't lie. He hasn't scored the ball or probably played as well as what he obviously is potentially able to play to the level to, but I'm confident. I like where his game is right now. I thought he was very efficient and good in Kansas City, and I think he's on an uptick right now.

Q. You said your team has been playing with freedom the last six, eight weeks. I'm wondering if that's something a coach tries to instill or something that evolves?
BILL SELF: Probably a little bit of both. I think we probably started playing -- even when we played Kentucky and Jerry, you were there, even when we played Kentucky I thought there was pressure to win that game. Our players felt it and, you know, coaches probably felt it and everything because we lost, if I'm not mistaken, 3 out of 5 and we needed to kinda turn the tide.

Getting through that game, I think, gave us some confidence and then we were able to get on a mini run with a couple of games. And then all of the sudden the smiles got bigger. The practices got shorter, you know. The jokes got better. Regardless of what it was, I just felt like our guys totally loosened up. The other thing probably roles were defined better.

So they probably weren't uptight thinking about what is my role. I think that everybody had a complete understanding of kinda how they could best help our team and what role they would have. Guys bought in. Of course, it doesn't guarantee success moving forward but these guys are about as bought in as any group I've ever had.

Q. Coach, your program is a model of consistency. Landen said this is the team that pushed forward. This wasn't a team that settled in and stayed in one place towards the end of the season. Have you done anything with this group in particular?
BILL SELF: I think this group has been easier because we've been healthy. Regardless of who your team is and when you lose one of your best two or three players off your team going into postseason or week before postseason, you know, you're not whole and sometimes you try to piece it together trying to buy time as opposed to this is who we are, this is what we do and go attack it that way.

The last couple years we haven't been whole. You lose the No. 3 pick in the draft and you lose Cliff Alexander last year and Perry Ellis last year for the most part due to a knee injury, your team takes a totally different look. And this has been probably an easier group to push forward as you said because we haven't had to change midstream on what we were doing. We're tweaking as opposed to kind of revamping.

Q. Coach, does this feel like a home game and are there some advantages to playing this close to home?
BILL SELF: I don't know. I hope our fans travel. I hope our fans were probably -- I know they're smart enough, but probably aggressive enough to get the tickets before you see Kentucky and Indiana in the field because I know they're going to work hard on getting a lot of those.

I would think we will have a great following. I don't know if it will feel like a home game or not, but certainly it is nice to go get on a bus and play rather than having to go get on a plane.

Q. Coach, could you comment on what Landen has done for you, for this team since he got the starting role?
BILL SELF: He's been our best low-post defender and our best rebounder on both ends and probably the smartest player we have. You look at his stats and offensively he's given us some stuff but it's not double figures or anything like that, consistently but he's been there to anchor us on both ends and the guys really enjoy playing with him because he is so smart.

I think he's probably been as big of a reason why we have played better of late as anybody, just because the guys trust him and enjoy playing with him a lot.

Q. Diallo came in with such a high profile high school player how has he adjusted in the learning role?
BILL SELF: Cheick is as good as any kid in our program. He works hard and he's been a 10 as far as adjusting to a role that obviously he did not anticipate having, and to be candid with you, we didn't anticipate it either. But the other guys have probably played a little bit more consistently due to the fact that he's so young to the game. I mean, he's just raw. He's going to be great! He's just a year or two away and I know that's -- it's hard for a guy to be patient, but if he is patient and keeps working hard then he's going to get the last laugh on everybody.

But right now he's just a little raw and you could see so much improvement with him even in the last six weeks. So much improvement, but you've also seen so much improvement with the team with the way we're playing and who we're playing that he probably hasn't had the opportunity to be inserted as much because the team is probably performing -- is performing better than it was earlier.

But I think he's going to be great. Who knows, you know, if that will be with us or if he'll take a jump, I don't know, but his future is very bright.

Q. What's your thought on the president picking you to win it all in the bracket?
BILL SELF: I did not know that until this morning, and I will be excited. I wasn't that giddy about it at all! He's done that before and then he will blame me for ruining his pool if things don't work out. I think it's fine. This is a unique year for us going into the tournament because I feel like we're whole for the first time in a while, so I'm excited about it. I'm fine with anybody picking us or not picking us. I know none of that matters at all, but I know our guys are chomping at the bit to go play.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach. Good luck tomorrow.

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